Once in a while I come across someone with a lot of leadership potential but they are hesitant to grow because they were previously "hurt" by another leader who offered to help them grow in their leadership abilities but failed to give them the time and support they needed to reach their potential.
True happiness cannot be obtained by having a large ministry. It comes through having a large heart. Far too easily we equate true happiness with staggering numbers and being flown around the nation, but too quickly we buy into what is honestly a fallacy of ministry.
I have learned in my walk with Christ that "desert" experiences do not necessarily mean you have done anything wrong, but are often times part of God's plan for spiritual growth.
Instilling heart into your leaders for your kids is one of the most important things you can do. Each year around 100 Atlanta Leadership students come to us from all different parts of the country and different backgrounds. One of the first things I try to instill in them is heart. How?
"Are you tired enough yet?" the internal voice asked me. And almost immediately, I knew what Jesus was trying to say. "Jeanne, what are you trying to prove? Are you exhausted enough now to finally think you have 'earned the right' to turn off your iPad and get some sleep?"
As a youth pastor, I can almost guarantee that you will have the opportunity to use these principles sooner than you wish. But in truth, some of those painful, isolating times of loneliness will help make you someone in the ministry who has something inside to give to others.
I remember when I first dared to ask my mother, "Mom, you live such a lonely life. Don't you ever want to divorce Dad?"
She paused for a minute, obviously taken off guard by the bluntness of her young daughter's question. But then she responded very deliberately and lovingly, "Sure, Jeanne, I have for a long time. But I won't."
Just the other evening, one of my seniors in high school said seriously, "Jeanne, we need to talk. I'm really confused." Somehow, I knew intuitively where the discussion was going. "I have to make some major decisions about where I'm going to college," she continued, "and I'm really confused about how to know God's direction in all of this."
Finding a balance with your family and ministry is never easy, but half the battle is your commitment and the attitude that accompanies it.
If you’re going to be a real leadership trainer, it is taking a deeper interest in your volunteers, at least key ones and pouring your gut into them that will make a difference.
If I want to inspire other people to grow, I've got to keep making the non-glamorous choices. These are some simple ways that I encourage the people around me:
It's that time of year! ALC will officially be 100% here and in full swing by next Saturday. Second years, third years and support staff are already settled in, with first years arriving over the weekend. That means the quiet halls of the summer will now be full of the life and energy of nearly 100 ALC gang. I would have it no other way, but it is not without challenges.
To say excitement is in the air in anticipation of our first year students coming in next week would be a huge understatement! Regardless of what the year holds, I'm ready to give my heart away yet again. While the 9-month journey with most will be incredible, four decades in youth ministry tells me that one or two will break my heart.
Jesus knows what it feels like to have life stink sometimes. Jesus on the cross doesn't just take away our sins...He was innocently suffering... innocently taking a rap for something He didn't bring on Himself.
The core growth strategy for my youth groups over the years has been creating a youth church environment of AUTHENTIC FRIENDSHIP AND LOVE. Though your preaching, worship, and evangelism all play a big part in youth ministry growth...your strongest "drawing card" to this lonely young adult culture will remain a RELATIONAL ONE.
Jeanne talks candidly to a group of women who asked her..."How do you keep your faith in the valleys of life?"
Lately, if you checked out the books I keep in my favorite reading spot on the back porch, you would see the 4:8 Principle by Tommy Newberry. This book is so good, I've probably read through it seven times.
"You God keep track of all my sorrows You’ve collected all my tears and put them in a bottle." Psalm 56:8
Because I have these breathtaking people around me and I never want them to feel like I'm not carrying my own weight, one of my most mammoth mind games and one of the biggest challenges I face is learning to take time off without guilt. Yet without this time, I know I cannot do effective ministry. So I try to follow a few simple rules:
Years ago I attended the funeral of Pastor Wendell Smith, the founder of City Church in Seattle and Pastor Judah Smith's father. It was such a great picture of someone who had really made their life count for something. In that moment, I was very much aware of my own mortality. What did I really want my life to stand for?
There have been stages in my life, when I have been asked to go on when I have felt completely physically and emotionally drained and I have wondered how I possibly could. It was during those times that I remembered the moment when everything must have felt for Christ the emptiest and the most depleted...
Jesus answers prayers...but every once in a while it's an EVEN IF moment. Where for reasons that sometimes we don't know until we get to heaven, we don't always get the answers we want.
The truth of the matter is that friendships are hard in ministry, especially for ministry leaders.
They are FOR WHAT YOU ARE FOR. And as long as you are "for what they are for," they will walk with you. They will stay in the ministry trenches with you.
These people are not for YOU, nor are they for WHAT YOU ARE FOR. Instead, they are simply AGAINST WHAT YOU ARE AGAINST. Thus, they're willing to get in the trenches and do battle with you AGAINST something.
We talk about worship all the time...it's a part of our every Sunday morning routine. But how big of a deal is "worship" in the Lord's eyes? In the Scripture He says it's THE MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL THE COMMANDMENTS. So, let's take a look at some thoughts when it comes to what biblical worship is and what it isn't.
How good are you at creating family in your youth group? Many years ago...I already could sense that most people who did youth and young adult ministry needed to go home and shut down their youth or young adult group and start a family. And now a million times more.
There will be times in your "youth family" when you will have to deal with emotional issues such as accidents, death, illness, divorce or any of the things that happen in life when you ask the question, "Where were You, God?"
Regardless of where we stand in the pecking order at home, at work, or at the church, we all serve someone. Many of us in youth ministry submit to a senior pastor or if you're a leader you might look up to your youth pastor. Through the years I've always sought to be the armor bearer for others and practice the principle Zig Ziglar always reiterated – "You cannot hold a torch to someone else's path without bringing light to your own."
We live in a pretty ungrateful society. From your boss, to the parents you try to please, to the students you love, rarely will you ever get all the affirmation you deserve. Let me take a minute to tell you that while I challenge you to continue to cultivate the art of affirmation in your ministry, I want to encourage you. I apologize for all the times you've waited too long to receive a decent compliment. Cheesy though it may sound, I mean it when I say that I think you're amazing, and you really are doing a great job.
I recently received an email from a member of my Cadre who was wondering, "Am I asking the right questions?" Sadly, not too many people pause to ask those kinds of questions.
Though the word-game has become trite, his questions are now beginning to shift from "success" to "significance." I realize the worn out nature of those two words; but they aptly describe the transition he is wanting to make.
Remember that pain is temporary, but character is permanent. So be the AUTHOR of your life story, not the VICTIM. We all have a story, the filter that we live life through. If we're not careful, our "story" can become the truth of our filter rather than the Word of God. However, good leaders just survive their pain. But great leaders assign purpose to it.
You know you're a success in youth ministry when teenagers take you for granted and fail to appreciate all you do.
This might sound strange, but when you parallel your youth ministry to Christ's experience with His disciples, it makes sense. The 12 guys on His ministry team never sang, "How Great Thou Art," to Him. In fact, they often seemed unimpressed by the sacrifices Jesus made to minister among them.
You know you're a success when you've been in one place long enough to have "remember when" stories.
Persistence is the greatest revenge on hell. In our dysfunctional society, where complete family units are an endangered species, we can define successful youth ministry with three words: "Just be there." Sounds simple, but in a world of "rotating relationships" a long-haul ministry can't be overrated.
You know you're a success when you fight to remain a voice, not an echo.
There are many echoes in youth ministry...people who merely mimic the culture's values rather than fight to be a distinct voice for biblical values. I'm not talking about legalism or nitpicking about music styles or body piercing here. I'm talking about being a prophetic voice in the lives of our young people...a voice that has something to say about character, conscience, and conviction. It requires no energy or backbone to simply echo what kids want to hear.
Contrary to popular belief, staying up all night with teenagers, jumping on trampolines, driving bumper cars, playing basketball with a raw turkey, and chasing pigs no longer entice me. Yes, as you laugh, it is true I did each of those things. But let me be quite truthful... those things are not my idea of fun. Yet if you watched me participate in any of those activities, you would never guess I was not having the time of my life.
Have you ever gone through "Desert Times" in your life? You know...the dry times when God feels a billion miles away and any sense of "feeling" in your walk with the Lord is long gone. It's when the voices of failure, discouragement and inferiority get real loud in your head. We are forever giving out in youth ministry and it can become incredibly depleting.
We need to understand that sometimes we break God's heart long before we break His Commandments.
When my boys were younger, I only allowed myself to travel two days out of every month. Each time I returned from a trip, my precious children scurried, squealing, "Momma, Momma, what did you bring us?"
Gossip isn’t the only dangerous enemy in our youth groups. It has an ugly cousin that I call sarcasm or “scar-casm.” Because our youth culture so loves humor, it is often viewed as a friend rather than a foe. The reality is sarcasm pushes this idea of “humor at any price.” I’ve watched many “cool” youth leaders that choose to use sarcasm to communicate with their teenagers.
When you first move to a new town, how do you find out where all the teenagers are "hanging out"? When was the last time you privately invited a small group of students to help you brainstorm or launch an outreach or a change in your youth group? If you haven't, I guarantee you're missing out on what could potentially be your secret allies.
When I was training in college to enter youth ministry, I often mentally bemoaned the lack of "real world courses" that would prepare me for my journey. Now, more than four decades along, I stand by my youthful thoughts. One such course could have been titled, "Conflict Resolution 101."
If you have been around me for any length of time, then you know that I am a woman on a mission to leave a legacy that honors Christ. So let me take a few minutes and share with you 6 thoughts on what it looks like to craft your own legacy:
Once upon a time, a well-meaning Sunday school leader declared to the teenagers that showed up Sunday morning after Sunday morning, “You guys are going to like each other or else we’re going to die trying to make you…” The truth is many of us have felt like we’ve already died trying. Creating a family feeling in our youth groups is easier said than done.
Real marriage isn't moonlight and roses. Real marriage is bad smells and bad sounds.
Jeanne talks candidly to a group of women who asked her..."What do you wish people would have told you when you were younger about marriage?"
Great executives know how to do one thing well – surround themselves with amazing individuals. The president chooses his cabinet wisely, a CEO carefully selects his staff, and a youth pastor must handpick solid leaders to take the group forward. One of the first things I have done in every ministry I began is to search out good leaders.
Does your ministry need a shot in the arm? Here are a few simple steps you can use to generate or re-generate excitement about your ministry.
Late one night my phone rang and before I could finish saying, "Hello," the voice on the other end frantically spoke.
"I'm so sorry to call you late. I don't know what to do. I love where I'm at. I just need to take care of my family, and this is such a great opportunity... hello?"
If you're in ministry, remember, God doesn't call you to be His business associate, He calls you to be His son or His daughter. It is still agonizing to me how many people are in the ministry and don't carve out a consistent time, even if it's 10 minutes in the Word and 10 minutes in prayer each day, with the Lord. For me, it's my back porch time, for my husband, it was his appointment with the Lord. I don't know that it ever happens unless you consistently have a certain time of day you do it. For me, it's the first thing in the morning.
Often during the "Desert Times"... those times when things are dry and sometimes a little overwhelming... we can trust our Heavenly Father to holds us close and say, "I've got you!"
Most churches are not large enough to have separate ministries for their youth so they have the challenge of creating harmony in a group of energetic junior highers, high school students and sometimes young college and career age adults.
Your senior high and college/career kids can be annoyed for a thousand different reasons, and especially by the energy of a kid in junior high. They will not be annoyed though if they feel like they own a few of those junior high kids. Almost like a big brother or big sister.
We are trying to reach a generation that has seen very little commitment to standards and morals from their parents. So we should not be surprised that the word "commitment" is a nice word on a spelling list, but rarely seen. Our kids so want to be committed and here are a few ways that we can help them live that out.
In Cadre emails, I'm frequently asked to share some of my tips on developing a great leadership team. I thought you might enjoy hearing a few too. While some of the points may not sound too "glamorous," please just know that they work if you have the guts and endurance to keep doing them.
I've always been a woman on a mission... to leave a genuine legacy that honors Christ. I recently did a Source message where I challenge each of us with the question, "What's going to be the SIGNATURE OF YOUR LIFE?" I ask you to be audacious enough to answer the unspoken question that everybody will be trying to casually ask in the "reunion" celebrations of your life, "WHAT DID YOU DO WITH YOUR LIFE?" We all want to do something AMAZING and WORLD-CHANGING with our lives, but really, what does that even look like today?
We just came off of our 3rd Year Intern Advance and will be leaving on Thursday for our 2nd Year Advance... in between we’re doing a huge outreach tomorrow night. It’s during these times, as I stand at the front of the room looking at all the amazing diverse faces starring back at me, I’m reminded of who is in my midst... particularly the Stephens and the Drews. Allow me to share their story…
My mind reeled with an entire list of things that needed to be done before 6 pm, and the day was flying away from me. Two phone appointments, a brief game plan meeting, a lunch appointment with an eagle, and then finally after resolving a conflict between two staff members, I raced back to my office. I knew I wouldn’t have time to run home and change, so I threw my outfit together and brought it with me in the morning so I could quickly get ready for the service.